Our Beautiful Love
Our Beautiful Love
by Ruby Turalba
Imagine yourself opening like a flower about to bloom. Opening your mind to growth and transformation. Opening of your womb, as your body prepares for birth. Opening your heart to a love so deep and vast, there are no words that can describe it. And opening your third-eye to the complete unknown. These were the many sensations that I felt in the few weeks prior to our child’s birth.
We were hoping for a New Years Eve baby, and so in late December there was plenty of sex and long walks (a lot of both!!!), with the hope that these would bring on an earlier labor. During our strolls I began to feel my cervix ripening, something of a strong pressure, an opening if you will, at the bottom of my uterus. The sensations would be so intense that I would have to stop my pace for a moment and let out a deep, long, “Oooooo.” Friends would joke that I was about to have my baby right there in the middle of the street, but I knew that these were just feelings of preparation.
One morning I woke before dawn, risen by a strange yet familiar feeling of cramps within the core of my body. I lay there in perfect stillness wondering if our child was finally coming to us. Appreciating the silent hours of the city, the feelings continued rhythmically until the day’s first light. What began as a sensation deep within my core, slowly radiated outward moving through my entire womb. I was not keeping track of the hours or minutes as my mind was intently focused on the sensations. As the birds greeted the day, I had the strong urge to empty my bowels. Knowing that I was receiving some telltale signs, I decided to wake my partner, Khalil. He was groggy, yet excited at the same time. We lay there together and I informed him each time a contraction was coming on. At a reasonable hour, we called our midwife Sue Baelen, who happily replied, “Yay!”
We spent the late morning enjoying our breakfast on the back deck, basking in the beautiful January sun. With every contraction, I practiced different yoga positions and took slow steady breaths. We enjoyed the sunshine for a few hours holding each other, calling our friends and family to share the pending news, and occasionally checking in with Sue. At one point, I went to the bathroom and witnessed my “bloody show,” making it very real to me that our baby was on its way.
Eventually we decided to get dressed and go for a walk. However, as we were getting ready I began to feel like the contractions were requiring my full attention. We labored together in our bedroom until Sue arrived later that afternoon.
By that point, I was in another world riding out each surge. In retrospect, it brings me back to a dream I had earlier in my pregnancy: My niece and I were at the beach when she asks me, “Auntie Ruby, are you scared of the ocean waves?” I told her that the waves would take me up, up, up, high, but that I was not afraid, for eventually they would bring me back safely to shore. And this is how I experienced my labor. Rather than consciously fighting each contraction, I allowed them to carry my spirit to an unknown place, yet with the grounding knowledge that I would return and rest in the comfort of my partner’s arms again.
Sunset came and went in the blink of an eye. Both Sue and Khalil took turns pouring water over my body in the bathtub. At times I wanted his masculine love and presence, and at others I only wanted the gentle touch of a woman. A knock at the bathroom door signaled the arrival of my father and sister who had just driven up from San Diego. Both peeked in to say, “Hello.”
After a few hours in the bath I returned to the bedroom and was offered some food and drink for nourishment. My body immediately and forcefully rejected these. In a sense of urgency, my partner offered his cupped hands as the receptacle. Unfortunately, my projectile missed his hands altogether and my sister was kind enough to clean up the mess.
There was one contraction where I was slightly bent over, leaning on the back of a chair, with my partner holding me from behind. I caught a glimpse of our reflection in the mirror. I was groaning and writhing, though my sounds and movements appeared as if I were experiencing sexual pleasure rather than labor pains. After the surge subsided, we joked about the sensuality of it all. With all that loud ruckus, do the neighbors think we’re getting it on? We made love to conceive the baby, and it sure looked like we were making love to birth the baby!
During another surge, the midwives suggested that I get into a supported squat. My sister, who had already been alternating with my partner for the last few hours at massaging my sacrum (the back pain was quite intense), took the lead. She held me firmly, although it felt like both of us were about to be pounded by a powerful wave. After all, I was 40 pounds heavier than her petite frame!! The midwives offered other positions.
Late into the evening, or the early hours of the morning, the contractions slowed down and everyone tried to get some rest. I had some miso soup which was comforting and energizing, bringing the contractions back to full force.
Since my membranes were still intact, my sister recommended that I labor on the toilet to try and break my bag of waters. I sat facing the opposite side of the toilet and with each contraction I pushed hard. My sister rooted me on for moral support: “Break that bag, Ruby!” I can’t remember how many attempts it took, but there was a huge release when it happened. The contractions were no longer waves. They became tsunamis.
We returned to the bedroom where I lay on my side attempting to push the baby out. I was so exhausted I couldn’t even lift my leg, so I turned onto my back with my knees to chest. Three women hovered over me: Sue; the assistant midwife, Griselda; and my sister, Maria. “Breathe your baby down. Curl your baby down,” they chanted.
When the baby began to crown, Sue smiled and said, “Ruby, reach down and feel your baby’s head.” I was so tired and all I wanted was to rest. I barely had the desire to touch the baby, but I reached down anyhow thinking that I should. A few more pushes and the head was out. The midwives asked me to hold my breath so that the baby would come out ever so slowly avoiding any tears. Well, at that point it was like a reflex. Trying to hold its head in place was like asking me to hold in a sneeze or an orgasm! So out the baby flew with its fist raised high. Rebellious little critter.
The instant the infant was placed on my belly, I felt a rush of love and joy that was like nothing I had experienced before. My partner’s tearing eyes glowed when he pushed aside the umbilical cord and announced, “It’s a girl!”
While the events of my labor are fuzzy memories with no sense of time or sequence and many parts missing—remember, I was in Laborland—I will forever recall with vivid sweetness that magical moment of when it was just me, my partner, and our little girl nuzzling in the comfort of our bed. Our beautiful love had finally arrived.
Two weeks later, under the full moon, we chose her name. Reflecting her Egyptian and Filipino ancestries, she is our Jamila Mahal—meaning beautiful love.